Choosing an Online Travel Site

I have used many of the popular travel sites and have found that when comparing prices they have all given me the same price for airfare inquires. However, hotel prices have varied noticeably from site to site. While airfare seems to be relatively fixed for any given day and time, hotel prices can change based on days and length of stay.

Any travel site should allow you to price different departure and return days and times with a variety of hotels too chose from, but the better travel sites allow you to save itineraries to your account without obligation to purchase. It is frustrating to research a trip on a travel site only to lose it because the page timed out or you accidentally closed a browser window. All travel sites offer convenience, that’s the what using the internet is about. But trusting the site you’ve researched on and put together your next vacation not to over charge with hidden fees or last-minute price changes, means being able to reach them by more than just a contact us link or email address.

After every booking I recommend calling the booking website and confirming your recent purchase. Therefore, make sure your site of choice has a legitimate phone number. There have been times when calling the number on the site has saved me money. Recently, I needed to change a return flight on my vacation. The booking site gave me a direct number to the airline and the airline reduced my changing fee. Now, you can purchase airline tickets at a price were the change fee would be waived if you had to make a change, it is more money and may pay off if you are flying multiple segments or will travel to more than one destination during your trip.

Purchasing the hotel separate from the airfare can save you money if you can take advantage of last-minute deals. Though it is comforting to know that your whole trip is covered from the start with one purchase, waiting to book and purchase your hotel weeks before your trip can often save you money. However, the down side is you may not get to stay in the hotel you want. Still, separately purchasing the hotel allows you the ability to change where you are staying and leaves the airfare untouched.

The purpose of online travel sites are to make planning and purchasing your next trip easy and affordable. When it gets to hard; you can’t find the travel dates you want. Or, it’s no longer affordable; all the low price seats are booked. Try again later, people change their mind and online booking is a good way to take advantage of that.

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Top Ten Travel Sites

I do a lot of travel which prompts a lot of travel research. Every good travel buff has their own top ten travel sites, here are mine.

1. Tripadvisor.com is at the top of my list and should be the top of any traveler’s list. Not only is it a great place to find great lodging but by posting on their forums I have gotten a lot of questions answered and made a lot of really good contacts.

2. Homeaway.com comes in a close second because I love to rent houses and condo when I travel for several reasons.

- First you end up with a lot more space for less than you can get a hotel room. I just rented a beautiful three bedroom penthouse apartment in the Miraflores area in Lima Peru for $100 per night. The lowest room cost in the Marriot that is a block away was $210 per night

- Second you can cook your own meals which also saves money. I love it when you can stay in luxury for a budget price!

3. Homeexchange.com is also one of my favorite ways to find lodging. If you have a vacation home or are willing to do a simultaneous exchange with your personal home or even a hospitality visit where you have some new guests that you host. I have had some wonderful exchange experiences and made some very close long term friends using home exchange.

4. Hotwire.com and Priceline.com are my choice if you plan on staying in a hotel. I check hotwire first and see what the price is for the quality of hotel I am looking for and then go into Priceline and bid about $20 less for the same quality and area. If I don’t get it on Priceline, I go back and book it on Hotwire. Biddingfortravel.com is a great place to get more info on what prices are being accepted by Priceline hotels and other info on bidding.

5. Kayak.com and Bing.com/travel are where I go for flights or cars. Bing is great because on a lot of flights they have an indicator that tells you whether the price for your flight is expected to go up or down in the next 7 days. I like the interface with Kayak better so I usually only use Bing to get an indicator of what the price is doing. For cars I will reserve a car under Kayak and then when I get to the airport I will check with a couple of companies and see if they will give a better “on the spot” rate.

6. Couchsurfing.org comes in sixth. This is a great way to find a couch if that’s your bag, not that sleeping on someone’s couch is my bag but this is a great site to get to get local information and make local friends. Note, you do have to sign up and get verified. This is to keep the creeps away.

7. StumbleUpon.com is a great site to find unique and cool travel sites. Just set your interest to “travel” and stumble away.

8. Caretaker.org or the Caretaker’s Gazette is a subscription service that costs $29.95 per year. They collect ads from people who are looking for a caretaker of their residence around the world. This is a great site to find a place to land for a long stay. Some opportunities even pay you to do various chores or upkeep.

9. Earthwatch.org is a really cool site if you would like to get involved in scientific research while traveling. Scientists who need hands and funding to complete their research post their projects here. You can sign up to study the cheetahs in Africa or do an archeological dig in Europe. Each project lists details about the cost, length of stay, accommodations and what the scientist is trying to accomplish.

10. TripIt.com is a great site for designing a travel itinerary online that you can print out or share with others. Great for keeping track of your flights, lodging and activities. When you sign up for this service it will put a tab on your browser that will all you to click on “Add To TripIt” which will capture the site in your tripit profile, later you can assign those websites to a trip. This is a great way to research and pull all the information together in one place quickly and easily. This service is free, there is a more advanced version called TripIt Pro for $49 per year which enhances your options including sending you alerts when there are flight delays, finding alternative flights quickly, tracking all your frequent traveler information and a few other services.

I am 54 years old and have enjoyed traveling to over 35 countries. Through my travels I have learned some truths.

- People around the world are more similar than different.
- Travel is one of the best educators and can dissolve misconceptions and prejudice.
- Experiences are 10 times more valuable then buying “things”; things get used up, broken or lost; memories last forever.
- Men have caused most of the problems on earth.

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Escorted Tour Travel Sites

Even if you’re an “armchair” traveler, travel sites are fun to explore. Competition is fierce, and travel site owners work hard to provide lots of in-depth information and links to keep you browsing their site! If planning a trip, you’re smart to look for travel sites geared to your itinerary and travel style.

You’ll find travel sites usually have a slant. For example, some cater to the independent traveler who wants an unstructured, footloose vacation. If you have two weeks, and want to visit Paris, Koln, Florence and Rome, but want to do your own research on sights to see and how long your stay at each destination will be, this type of travel site may be the best place to start.
If you want to take a cruise, search out travel sites with a specialty in cruises. Their content will likely focus on cruise-related issues and be of value to you.

Escorted tour travel sites offer structured tours with a guide to fill you in on interesting or historic sections of your destination. These guides are well informed of their particular venue, and can give you an inside look you won’t find elsewhere. Travel sites geared to escorted tours usually offer “night life” tours where you’ll discover the local hot spots for entertainment which you might otherwise miss.

Luxury oriented travel sites focus on first-class everything. If you want to be in total comfort every step of the way and not have to deal with any arrangements, check out the luxury type travel sites.

Another popular type site is the Cooking class trip. If you’d like to learn the techniques of a foreign cuisine while vacationing, there’s a travel website to accommodate you. These cooking travel sites arrange accommodations, usually luxurious, along with daily cooking classes, visits to the local marketplace, wine tastings and communal dining. Now that’s a vacation and a half for the avid cook! The aspiring chef can book a trip and earn a Cordon Bleu certificate at the same time.

If you’re an “armchair” traveler, the net is wide open. You can make a virtual visit to anywhere you’d like to go! Some travel sites have panoramic photography, allowing you to see what the river Seine looks like from the second tier of the Eiffel Tower at nightfall. You can find panoramic videos of Buenos Aires, the Australian Outback or Vatican City.

Almost all travel sites [http://www.allpasstravels.com] arrange car rentals, hotel accommodations, rail passes and the like. You’ll pay for the service, but you’ll relieve yourself of a lot of footwork. Travel sites know their business

And offer a lot of convenience in ironing out the best deals.

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New Travel Sites For Those Coveted Tips on How to Get There and What to Do

To me, there’s something special about searching to discover bits of secret travel and sightseeing tips about exotic places from all over the Internet and then anticipating a great vacation that will benefit from all of them. When I research the area of the world I plan on traveling to, I’ll frequently find little hidden treasures, secret restaurants, ignored little tourist gems and little-advertised local events that no one else knows about, and of course, I’ll find some of the best fares to everywhere. I’ve come by quite a few useful travel resources over my years trotting the globe; some of them are new, and some of them have seen many travel seasons. Information being power and all, here is my list of the best travel sites that I’ve ever had the pleasure of using.

Let’s start with the places that will give you an edge in the race for the cheapest air tickets. Everyone knows about the mass-market ones like Kayak, Expedia, and Bing Travel (Microsoft’s relaunched travel service that’s supposed to so creative, they call themselves a travel decision engine (as opposed to a travel search engine). But how about some of the new upstarts (or should I say startups?) that have come up over the past year or two – the ones that claim all manner of innovative discount searches? There are just so many of them – Dohop, SideStep, Mobissimo and Vayama are some of the more interesting new names in this business.

In my opinion, these travel sites deserve at least one visit at least for the kind of psychedelic names they’ve managed to come up with. On a recent trip that I made from New York to London, I decided to try all of these. Still, for me, the travel giant Bing and the upstart Dohop both did better than any of the other ones. On these two sites I could hit Buy on a round trip to London at $771; not every one of the others though, if I had hits Buy, I would have taken a hit for an extra $100. There is another booking site called cFares that’s picqued my fancy recently. The first and the most intriguing part to this travel site is the fact that they try to keep the rif-raff out by making you pony up the cash for a $50-a-year membership before they let you do anything on it. When I tried looking for the same flight on cFares, it saved me a further $70 on the fare. So the moral of the story is, travel sites for low fares, as great as they are, are not perfect. They don’t all win all of the time. The best I know how to snag cheap flights now is to take the advice of Dohop and cFares, and always pick Thursdays and Wednesdays to fly – lots of fares are predictably cheaper these two days of the week.

So these travel sites can help you buy a ticket, and book a hotel room; and everyone knows about SeatExpert and SeatGuru as the people to go for the best seat on the flight you’re taking; but is there such a thing for hotels though? That should be much more useful – you spend a lot more time in the hotel. As it happens, there is.It is called TripKick and it’s a really neat idea; it has an alarming amount of information on which particular rooms in a hotel of your choice have a bigger bathroom, a better view, and so on. For my London trip, told me to take room number 218 at a hotel on Oxford Circus, for a great view out on a park. The only problem with TripKick though, is that it only covers expensive hotels, and not the budget ones.

But enough of the mundane in travel sites; how about ideas and how to enjoy your destination once you get there? For anyone traveling to Japan, I found AitaiJapan, a great well-informed tip surce for the entertaining in the obscure. It is a great site that aims to bring a touch of local flavor to your travels; anytime you visit Japan, you could get in touch with this site to find a local volunteer who will be happy to walk around town with you and show you around. It’s so much better than being part of a travel group – with a tour guide who gives you the same old spiel everyday. It’s a wonderful feeling to just show up in Japan and find a new friend waiting for you – and every volunteer speaks English too. The best part is, they refuse to accept anything for the service.

For some wonderful from-the-heart recommendations for places to go to anywhere in the world, you’ll need to try out AtlasObscura. As the name suggests, the site tries to give you ideas for places to go to that are exotic, wonderful, and just off the wall. The great thing is, it covers the whole world; and if you are traveling, it wouldn’t matter where, this is the website you need to look up – if it is the only one you ever did.

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